The Key To Frustration Is Unmet Expectation

I am about to start something new in Oxford, and for it to work it is going to need a great team. Now, two things I have learnt about starting new teams are:

  1. Always build a team around people you can BBQ with
  2. Deal with expectations early

These two principles have stood me well as I have worked in, and led, various teams. The first point is useful; the second point is essential. Every time that I have missed step 2 I have had to have a conversation (or several) down the road to deal with issues that arose when a simple exercise in the beginning could have dealt with them beforehand.

Ask Questions

When I first started to think through managing expectations, during my training as a school leader in YWAM, I was taught to ask questions. Now, every time I get a group together to achieve a goal I try to sit down as a team and explore the expectations we all have.

There are broadly three areas of questioning to be explored:

  1. What a leader expects of his/her team
  2. What the team expects of their leader
  3. What the team expect of each other

Taking time to explore these areas is always beneficial. Often people have hidden expectations, some that they may not even realise themselves. But boy, do we know it when our expectations have not been met!

Take this scenario for example. Perhaps regular times of feedback from the team leader is important to a particular team member. If he didn’t mention this to the leader then with time, frustration can grow which could turn into resentment. By talking about this right off the bat the expectation can be understood and accommodated.

Taking Stock Of My Frustration

Of course, it’s inevitable that not all expectations are met. All of a sudden I may find myself frustrated, usually accompanied by critical thoughts.

When frustration arises I have two options: 1) react out of my feelings 2) find the hidden expectation and assess it.

Another example. I like to know that I’ve done a good job. More specifically, I like to be told I’ve done a good job. When I finish a project I like to hear that it’s what someone wants.

I remember a time when I had finished a particular project that took me couple of weeks. Done, dusted, submitted. Confirmation from my boss, but, tragically, no embellished praise!

“Did he even care?!”, I wondered. Instant frustration! I would like to say that I took stock of this immediately and thought it through. The reality is that I sat on it for a few days, a little grumpy about the whole thing. Slowly, I came to my senses. I realised that I need to deal with the frustration. “The key to frustration is unmet expectation,” I mused.

I began to explore my increasingly obvious expectations. I wanted, no, I needed affirmation from my boss. Constantly. But is that fair? I was one of a number in a team and my boss is a very busy man. What right did I have to the pat on the back?

Additionally, where was my sense of value in the whole thing? Did I delight in doing the job well or in pleasing my boss? These questions pricked me into personal investigation. People pleasing is an energy-sapping, sure-fire way to a quick inferiority complex and I needed to deal with it.

Spending a few moments dealing with my frustration helped to bring awareness to unhealthy patterns in my life that, now exposed, I could pray about, deal with, and move on.

Frustrations, left alone, can stagnate. By pausing to reflect on our expectations prior to starting something, and taking stock in the midst of frustration, we can disarm the negative, disruptive emotions that hinder great team work.

What things are key to you building new teams? How to do you deal with expectations?